DM Screen 31 – The Doom That Came to the Mushroom Kingdom

I had a lot of ideas as to how I wanted to end the Mushroom Kingdom arc and was going back and forth on a number of them right up until the week we actually recorded the previous episode. For a while I had seriously considered having Robotnik summon a bunch of robotic allies from different universes, but ultimately I decided against it. One common element of Robotnik’s appearances throughout the Sonic franchise is his tendency to bite off more than he can chew, and I thought that his misuse of the stolen DDC could provide an interesting counterpoint to the more responsible and altruistic League.

Plus, who doesn’t love a giant eldritch monster fight?

The scene opens in one of the great halls of Bowser’s Castle, which until recently had been turned into a massive robot assembly line, although that now lies in smoking scraps across the stone floor. The five of you, along with the raptor Lace, Bowser, and Luigi, face down Mecha-Mario, a figure crafted of red and blue metal, who peers at all of you through cold, red mechanical eyes. Floating above on a flat, open metal platform is Robotnik, his eager cackles echoing off the stone walls. And finally, a hapless mushroom-capped lawyer named Daniel D. Cornwall, accidentally summoned by Nico, begins to look for a place to hide as it is becoming increasingly obvious that you’re going to roll initiative.

One of the interesting things about Nico is that she can do almost anything, but that a failure on her roll will never fizzle harmlessly—it always produces an unwanted effect. So, when she tried to summon the DDC to her last time and failed on her roll, I came up with a new character named Daniel D. Cornwall on the spot. That left me with an interesting wrinkle to think about as I started work on this episode.

Mecha-Mario
F: In
A: In
S: Rm
E: Rm
R: Ty
I: Gd
P: Gd

Health: 140

Body Armor: Gd
Flamethrower: Am damage, can be split between up to 5 different targets
Super Jump: Ex leaping, can be used with an attack to deal In damage. On a Yellow or better result, Mecha-Mario can make another leap attack on a different target—this continues until he makes a Green or worse result, or until he’s out of new targets.
Mario Cyclone: In damage to all enemies in melee with Mecha-Mario

Robotnik’s Death Egg Robot (a 15-foot-tall, egg-shaped robot version of Robotnik himself)
F: Ex
A: Gd
S: In
E: ShX
R: Am
I: Rm
P: Rm

Health: 220         Karma: 110

Body Armor: Ex
Jetpack: Gd flight
Rocket Fists: Can fire both at once, each deals In damage
Smart Bombs: Targets every enemy target using Agility, dealing Ex damage on a hit

Robotnik is surrounded by a Mn intensity force field at the start of the battle, but if that force field goes down, he will summon his Death Egg Robot. Anyone who gets close to him can see that he has the DDC hanging from his belt.

Right before Bowser’s first turn, Robotnik will turn to him and say, “Bowser, I have to say, I thought better of you. It must be obvious to you that you’re being used by people who see you as a puppet to be manipulated and plan on turning on you the second you stop dancing to their tune.”

“Shut up!” Bowser roars back. “They helped me. Luna… Luna was nice to me, when she didn’t have to be.”

“Oh really?” Robotnik says. “As it happens, I sent a number of robotic drones to spy on Mushroom Castle after I learned you’d been defeated, and what did I hear?”

He interacts with a holographic display in front of him, and the following exchange is broadcast:

Luna: If we have to… if we truly have to… we have Nico.

Peach: I don’t understand.

Luna: I think if some—if Bowser presents a threat, I think Nico can handle it, probably in a pretty permanent situation.

Bowser stands for a long moment, shaking slightly. He then turns toward Luna, hurt and rage burning in his eyes, and roars incoherently, any ability to speak beyond him now.

Bowser
F: Rm
A: Gd
S: In
E: Mn
R: Ty
I: Ty
P: Gd

Health: 155         Karma: 20

Body Armor: Gd
Claw: In damage; on a Yellow result, Bowser can make an additional bite attack on the target at -2 CS to hit for Ex damage
Bowser Bomb: Ex damage to one area and all targets must save vs. Slam
Fire Breath: Am to one target or Rm to one area
Poison Cloud: Target must make Endurance check or be poisoned

One thing I’ve been interested in recently is Luna’s duality: she’s so apparently good and kind, but her concern over her friends’ well-being leads to her doing things that are sometimes cowardly and sometimes ruthless. Her bargain with Peach in the last session just had too much potential for me to ignore. I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen with Bowser after this reveal—I left that up to roleplaying and the dice.

At the end of the first round, Daniel D. Cornwall will utter a terrified squeak and run off into a random hall of the castle.

At the end of the second round, the following scene occurs:

Elsewhere in the castle, Daniel D. Cornwall, attorney-at-law, creeps through a hallway, eyes looking around wildly from behind his small, round spectacles. His briefcase is clutched tightly to his chest, the one remaining shred of evidence that a rational world exists, and that he may, at some point, be able to return to it. He tentatively pokes his head around first one doorway, then another, hoping that one will lead to an exit from this madhouse, inevitably disappointed every time.

Eventually, he rounds the corner of yet another hallway and stops. At the end of the hallway is a large doorway, from which flickers a shimmering, purple light. Something in that room calls to Cornwall, slipping right past his conscious mind and deep into his brain stem. His arms suddenly relax, going limp at his sides, and his briefcase falls to the ground, papers falling in a meaningless pile around it.

Cornwall makes his way into the room at the pace of a sleepwalker. Inside, he sees Robotnik’s Dimensional De-Buffer, a towering work of gleaming metal and glass orbs containing lashing tendrils of purple electricity. The center of this machine is a massive metal ring standing upright, in which the very fabric of this world is being eroded away. Noises, smells, and physical sensations that belong in other dimensions pop in and out of existence around this titanic gateway. Most of them vanish as soon as they appear, but one does not. Within the bounds of the gate, Cornwall glimpses a shape, massive and dark and utterly terrifying. And somehow Cornwall knows that this figure is looking right back at him.

His feet carry him over to the controls of the Dimensional De-Buffer. His hands begin to work these controls, pushing the already-limited safeguards past their breaking point. His eyes look up and into the gate as the shape within becomes more solid, more real, and draws in closer. And his lips begin to mouth an alien phrase, over and over. “Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!”

Later, when dramatically appropriate: A low rumble begins to emanate from somewhere else within the castle, quickly escalating to a roar with the intensity of a jet engine. The floor and walls of the castle shake violently as deep cracks appear and rubble begins to fall in great chunks from the ceiling. Any thought of winning this battle is briefly put on hold as everyone makes a mad dash for the drawbridge leading outside.

Once you’re back in the rocky, lava-veined wasteland outside, you look back and see the castle crumble apart as a gigantic form rises from it. Towering over the surrounding mountain peaks, this creature’s body could only charitably be described as humanoid, as it is covered by dark, rubbery flesh, has gigantic bat-like wings sprouting from its back, and its head looks distinctively cephalopodic, with a mass of writhing tentacles extending from the bottom of its bulbous head. The merest glimpse of this creature’s monstrous, alien visage is enough to shake your sanity to its core—everyone, please make a Psyche check.

A character who gets a Green result rolls on the Short-Term Effects Table below; a character who gets a White result rolls on the Long-Term Effects Table below. (Thank you, Call of Cthulhu RPG book…)

Short-Term Effects (1d10+4 rounds)

1-20: Character faints (can be awakened by vigorous action taking one round)

21-30: Character has a screaming fit

31-40: Character flees in panic

41-50: Character shows physical hysterics or emotional outburst (laughing, crying, etc)

51-55: Character babbles in incoherent rapid speech or in logorrhea (a torrent of coherent speech)

56-60: Character gripped by intense phobia, perhaps rooting her to the spot

61-65: Character becomes homicidal, dealing harm on nearest person as efficiently as possible

66-70: Character has hallucinations or delusions

71-75: Character gripped with echopraxia or echolalia (saying or doing whatever those around them say or do)

76-80: Character gripped with strange or deviant eating desire (dirt, slime, cannibalism, etc)

81-90: Character falls into a stupor (assumes fetal position, oblivious to events around them)

91-00: Character becomes catatonic (can stand but has no will or interest; may be led or forced to simple actions but takes no independent actions)

Long-Term Effects (1d10x10 hours)

1-10: Character performs compulsive rituals (washing hands constantly, praying, walking in a particular rhythm, never stepping on cracks, constantly checking to see if gun is loaded, etc)

11-20: Character has hallucinations or delusions

21-30: Character becomes paranoid

31-40: Character gripped with severe phobia (refuses to approach object of phobia except on a successful Psyche check)

41-55: Character develops an attachment to a “lucky charm” (embraces object, type of object, or person as a safety blanket) and cannot function without it

56-65: Character develops psychosomatic blindness, deafness, or loss of the use of a limb or limbs

66-75: Character has uncontrollable tics or tremors (-2 CS to all checks that aren’t purely mental in nature)

76-85: Character has amnesia (memories of intimates usually lost first; knowledge-based talents useless)

86-90: Character has bouts of reactive psychosis (incoherence, delusions, aberrant behavior, and/or hallucinations)

91-95: Character loses ability to communicate via speech or writing

96-00: Character becomes catatonic (can stand but has no will or interest; may be led or forced into simple actions but takes no independent actions)

Dread Cthulhu briefly scans the landscape with dark, inhuman eyes, and then seems to choose a direction and begins to walk. After taking a second, you realize that Cthulhu is heading directly for Mushroom Castle.

By this point, the PCs should be able to get their DDC back fairly easily from Robotnik, so they could very easily abandon this plane to its fate. Or they can try to take on Cthulhu.

Cthulhu
F: Mn
A: Mn
S: Cl1000
E: Cl3000
R: Cl1000
I: Cl1000
P: Cl1000

Health: 4150       Karma: 3000

Resistances: Immune to Stun, Slam, and Kill results; immune to transmutation; Cl5000 vs electricity, cold, acid, disease, poison, and mental attacks; Mn vs fire and heat
Super Senses: Sh-Z (five miles)
Telepathy: Sh-Z
Shapeshifting: Sh-X
Regeneration: Sh-Y

Should they go for this route, Nico may be able to find a ritual in the Tome of Eternal Darkness that should be able to banish Cthulhu from this plane altogether; she’ll just need a couple of rounds of Cthulhu remaining in one place to form a gigantic rune circle around him. This probably means having her companions get Cthulhu’s attention and harry him for long enough for Nico to pull off the spell.

Specifically, the assembled League will have to make attempts to draw Cthulhu’s attention every turn. Every turn, they need to accumulate a number of points equal to the number of characters trying to draw his attention. They can do virtually any action that makes sense—attacking, singing a song, trying to dig a hole under him, etc. Once a character has decided what sort of distraction they want to do, they’ll make a check—a Green result gets the group 1 point for the round, Yellow gets 2 points, and Red gets 3 points. Points reset at the end of Cthulhu’s turn—if he starts his turn with the characters having accumulated a sufficient number of points, he’ll instead spend his turn attacking the one who accumulated the most amount of points that round.

The banishing spell Nico finds is: Aretak – Pargon – Pargon – Pargon – Ulyaoth – Pargon – Pargon – Pargon – Nethlek. It takes one round to do each rune, but additional people helping her cast can speed this along.

However, just as she’s about to finish the final triad of runes, she notices something: “Nethlek” is the rune meaning, roughly, “dispel.” This will banish Cthulhu from the plane. However, if she replaces Nethlek with “Bankorok,” meaning “protect,” she will instead bind Cthulhu to her, allowing her to draw upon the Great Old One’s power through the Tome of Eternal Darkness. She could even then force him from this world if she so chose. The choice is hers.

And that’s all I had for notes on this one—as always, I try to include a difficult decision at or toward the end of every story arc. This one ended up being very fun and cinematic, with strong emotional beats from Luna and some very creative roleplaying from everyone.

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